The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation is the only globally recognized internal audit certification. Because of that, it allows you to work and carry out internal audits anywhere in the world. It gives you more freedom than other certifications, but there are some key differences from them that you need to consider.

CIAs focus on auditing internal reports and ensuring that they accurately reflect reality. Doing so ensures that there are no mistakes in the reporting that will cause problems down the line. Thanks to that, internal auditors mitigate a great deal of risk just by performing their regular duties. On top of mitigating risk, they also need to develop internal procedures and controls used to safeguard company assets. A great deal of their job focuses on creating actionable suggestions to prevent any issues in a company’s production. Consequently, that makes this a very proactive position in any company. In essence, a CIA checks your company’s work to ensure that problems are solved before they have a chance to cause any damage in the future. And because it’s such an important job, it comes with strict requirements for candidates who want to become certified. There’s more information you need to know if you want to ace this exam and start your career the right way. You can learn more about that below:

Internal Auditor Certification Process

Becoming a CIA requires you to pass an exam issued by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). It is currently available in 12 different languages, with more planned to be added in the future. Check out the IIA’s about page for the full list of test languages. Keep reading for a brief summary of each requirement you need to meet before taking the CIA exam:

Certification Requirements

Much like any other certification, becoming a CIA requires you to meet a series of prerequisites first. These mostly involve education and work experience, but both are very important— especially since the work experience requirement is based on your education level.

Education Requirement

You need a minimum of 4 years of education to sit for the internal auditor exam. A bachelor’s degree is the base requirement, but there are benefits to continuing your education, since anyone with a master’s degree or higher has a much lower work requirement. It’s possible to get CIA certification without a degree, but only if you already hold another auditing certification. But before you try this, read the section below to learn about its strict  work experience. You must submit proof of your education to the IIA in order to register for the CIA exam. This is a fairly simple process that involves a copy of your degree, transcripts, or a letter from your university. After this you just need to meet the work experience requirements.

Work Experience Requirements

As I said before, how much work experience you need is based on your education level. You are technically allowed to sit for the exam before meeting this requirement, but you won’t become certified until after you’ve completed your work experience. That’s why it’s better to just do this first. The most lenient work experience requirement comes from having a Master’s degree in a related field— 1 year in internal auditing. By contrast, having a bachelor’s degree means you need to complete 4 years of work experience in internal auditing. But if you have a different certification as your education, it requires you to have 5 years of work experience.

Character Reference Requirement

The last thing you need to become a CIA is to submit a Character Reference, which must be signed by a supervisor or anyone certified in a related field. Once you’ve submitted this, you can take the exam and become a licensed CIA. Make sure to check out the IIA’s website for more detailed information about the requirements to become a CIA.

Exam Details

The CIA exam is split up into 3 distinct parts. Each one focuses on a specific major aspect of working as an internal auditor.  You can learn more about the questions and subject matter for each CIA exam section below:

  • Part 1 – Essentials of Internal Auditing: The first part asks you to demonstrate your understanding of the IIA’s International Professional Practices Framework. It’s split into 6 domains based on the foundation of internal auditing, independence and objectivity, proficiency and professional care, quality assurance, risk management, and fraud risk. 125 questions, 150 minutes to finish.
  • Part 2 – Practice of Internal Auditing: The next section is focused on the fundamental aspects of managing internal audit activity. This includes planning and performing the engagement, communicating results, and monitoring progress. 111 questions, 120 minutes to finish.
  • Part 3 – Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing:  The last part of the exam covers general business knowledge. Much like part 2, this exam consists of 4 domains: business acumen, information security, information technology, and financial management. 100 questions, 120 minutes to finish.

Source: IIA’s exam syllabus. As you can see, there are a total of 325 questions split across 3 exams. As long as you know what to study for, these should be easy to pass.

CIA Careers

After becoming a Certified Internal Auditor, it’s time to start thinking about your career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for internal auditors are expected to grow due to increasing globalization, a growing economy, and increasing need to navigate complex tax situations. Thanks to that, this is an excellent time to start work as a CIA. In terms of salary, CIAs tend to make an average of $66,750 a year. This can increase to be as high as $99k a year if you’re especially experienced. Currently, the highest paying states for CIAs are California, Washington, and Arkansas.

Bottom Line: As you can see, it’s worth it to become a Certified Internal Auditor. The requirements may be strict, but the knowledge is straightforward and easy to understand— and you’re practically guaranteed a great career path after becoming certified. Make sure to check out the IIA website to see how you can get started on this career!

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Bryce Welker is a regular public speaker and contributor to several online publications, including Forbes,, and Bryce is the mastermind behind over twenty different websites devoted to providing people like you with the resources necessary to successfully pass certification examinations.